Here to Help: Creswell team serves families from elementary school site

CRESWELL – Help, it turns out, is closer than people realize.

“The portables at Creslane are a little hard to find,” admits Peggy Whalen, executive director of the Family Relief Nursery that serves Creswell, Cottage Grove and Drain. “And people got so used to going to Cottage Grove for all their services that they still haven’t changed their mindset.”

Whalen and Crystal Morrison, FRN director of programs, are working to change that.

One of their first steps – after a remodeling of the classroom on the Creslane Elementary campus earlier this month – is hosting an Open House for community members to explore all of the nonprofit’s services in “The Friendly City.” They are extensive.

“Respite” opportunities, where parents can drop-off children so they can shop, work, or take a mental-health break. “During respite time (parents) can take one kiddo and leave one child with us and that helps reduce the stress within the home because the children are getting to have one-on-one attention.”

Child care support: It’s more than babysitting. “This isn’t just regular child care or regular preschool; we’re dealing with families that have some barriers and they may be at risk of child abuse or neglect. We really are an abuse-prevention program. We are trying to stop something before it happens,” Whalen said.

Parenting classes: In-depth, weeks-long development workshops. “The thing is, at all those parenting classes, there’s a dinner provided for them and their child so they can have their parenting class, the parents get to spend some time with other parents and with the teachers, and then the kids are in another room with aides who are helping with child care, and they’re doing fun activities with the kids. And so the parents can get a couple hours’ break, and learn some cool things and they don’t have to worry about dinner that night. It’s all taken care of,” Whalen said.

All of those initiatives contribute to a better community, too, they said.

“The parenting series builds relationships within the community, so it has a long-term effect; they know how to connect with some of their peers within the community and with children in the community,” Morrison said.

The key, Morrison said, is the therapeutic education they provide for children 2-5 years old.

“We work on building resiliency within the children and within the family,” she said. “During the classes we work on social and emotional skills, one-on-one, and emotional coaching to help them make choices within their space and at their level so that way that builds resiliency. We’re able to get early services in the family, to help them get early intervention before they go to school.”

The Open House is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 18, at Creslane Elementary. They have planned snacks, beverages, activities, and donation initiatives. The final details on non-perishable food and school-supply donations are nearly complete.  

Whalen said FRN has worked within all health and safety guidelines in continuing to support families during the pandemic, and that even if school districts close classrooms, FRN would continue to operate.

“We have an emergency child care license. There’d be no gap in services if we were to have another shutdown,” Morrison said. “We would just get very creative and make sure that families were continuing to get served.”

As further evidence of the organization’s impact, it recently was named one of the Top 100 nonprofits to work for in Oregon. “It’s based on what our staff is saying about working with us,” Whalen said with obvious pride. “The whole state of Oregon,” she stressed. “The little Family Relief Nursery!”

Whalen also said that FRN recently received $25,000 from the Oregon Community Foundation to host summer educational events. In fact, the next one is Thursday, Aug. 19, 4-6 p.m. at Creslane, and the events will continue into the fall.

Contact FRN at 541-942-4835 or visit its website, Its crisis hotline is 541-600-5312.



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